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Intermec CK3 Hands-On

intermec_150 In a warehouse environment, there is often a need to be able to scan barcodes over long distances. You might have to read a barcode that is suspended from a sign way up in the ceiling or on a label that is on a pallet that happens to be right on the top level of the racking. Of course, you also need to be able to read barcodes at close range as well. To  make matters worse, the label might have more than one barcode and you need to make sure you read the right one.

So to be useful in capturing data for warehouse management, a mobile computer must have great versatility for barcode scanning, and must also be robust enough to be able to survive in a tough industrial environment.

Luckily, some of the manufacturers of data collection equipment have proven to be up to this challenge and there are some really good scanning devices that can meet the needs of even the most demanding warehouse manager.

Until recently, my favorite was the Moto/Symbol MC9090 mobile computer which can be purchased with the company’s Lorax scan engine. This is a laser scanner and we have used it to read barcodes that are up to about 40 feet from the scanner. Pretty impressive!

With the arrival of the CK3 from Intermec, Moto now has some serious competition in the long range scanning business. We have had the chance to play with the new device and get some thoughts together. ck3

First Impressions

The CK3 has a pretty stylish modern design. Compared to the MC9090, it feels lighter and less robust. This is also shown in the specs – the MC9090 is rated for 6 ft. drops and the CK3 for 5 ft. I’ve seen the Symbol dropped from much greater heights and be fine, not sure I’d want to try that with the Intermec. The Symbol has better environmental sealing as well – IP64 compared to the Intermec’s IP54.

Having said that, the CK3 is certainly tough enough for most light industrial applications.

The standard battery for the CK3 is tiny. We didn’t get to use it for long, but the Intermec guys assure us it is good for a full shift. In any case, the battery is quick to swap out and the usual range of chargers is available.

The unit we tested had a 51 key keypad, a numeric version is also available. I thought the keys were slightly small for those big tough industrial guys, but other than that the keypad was not a problem to use.

Operating System, Memory and Screen

The CK3 uses Windows Mobile Classic 6.1, which is the most up to date version. No surprises here, the choice of the classic version shows that the device is intended for use inside the facility (fine with me) since there is no support for GSM or CDMA networks.

Memory is the pretty standard 128MB RAM and 256MB ROM – again no surprises. Expansion is provided by the ability to use Micro SDIO cards. Call me a Luddite if you want, but these tiny cards seem a bit non-industrial to me.

The colour touch-screen is the usual 240 x 320 QVGA deal. Nothing special, but a nice display all the same. I often find myself wondering when the handheld manufacturers will start fitting proper VGA screens into these kinds of product.

Configuration

A really nice feature of the CK3 is that the pistol grip is detachable, so the same unit can be used as a “brick” or a “gun”. Even better, if the device needs to be able to read RFID tags, the reader is built into a pistol grip handle. This means that any CK3 can be upgraded to RFID if needed – much better tan having to go out and buy a complete new unit.

I really like being able to configure the device on the fly as needs evolve.

Wireless Connectivity

As already mentioned, the CK3 does not have any GSM or CDMA capability. It does however come with 802.11a/b/g and BlueTooth Class 2.

The WiFi comes with the full set of security one would expect, including 802.1x and is Cisco certified.

Scanner

I’ve left the barcode scanning until last, because this is the part I’m most excited about. Sure all the other features are nice, but at the end of the day most mobile computers have much the same specs.

The CK3 is available with three different scan engines:

Linear Imager – Boring – I prefer laser anyway.

2D Area Imager – Boring

EX25 Near Far Imager – Brilliant! This is the option that makes the CK3 a special device.

We have tested this scanner extensively and I’m just so impressed with how well it performs. It can read both linear and 2D barcodes and self focuses so that the target barcode can be anywhere from 6 inches to 50 ft.
I was skeptical at first, especially since the Symbol Lorax scanner had been my go-to tool for long distance scanning. What I found with the Intermec was that not only was the range as good (maybe slightly longer, but not by much), but it was easier to aim – very important if there are barcodes close together and you need to read the right one.

Add the fact that it can read 2D codes as well and the EX25 is my new long range scanner champ.

Conclusion

Pros
Stylish design – not that this is important to warehouse guys
The scanner
Being able to customize the device as needed

Cons
Not as rugged as the Symbol competition

The CK3 is a nicely designed mobile computer. Intermec have done a nice job of evolving their product line. Everything about the device puts it at the top end of the mobile computer world.

For me though, the stand out feature is that it is available with the super EX25 scanner. If I was running an operation that relied on serious barcode scanning, that feature alone would lead me to invest in the CK3 – best scanner I’ve ever used.

By the way, if anyone can find any rhyme or reason behind the Intermec product names, I’d love to know.

Need to improve your labeling and data collection? Give me a call – 603.598.1553 x237

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Comments

  1. And what about the price?!? We're about to pick up two of these the price of one MC9090… it just doesn't make sense. I'm a little worried the speed and preformance of the EX25 will degrade over 3 years, but the cost and preformance outweigh those concerns. In our tests, the EX25 could definately read from at greater distances than the Lorax laser… I'll be curious if that changes over time.

  2. Tradewalker says:

    We've been using these and the slightly bigger CK31 guns for over 18 months and yes the scanner unit is superb. We have had some problems with battery life, having to replace the batteries every couple of hours over the last few months and at around £90 a pop, they're not that cheap to replace. We've also had a few problems with reliability although the CK3 has been better than the CK31 in this respect. I'd say most of the guns have been repaired once during this time for a variety of problems, but quite often due to scanning mechanism failures.

  3. Thanks for the comment Tradewalker.

    We’ve also had more experience with the CK3 since I wrote the post and I pretty much agree with your comments.

    As you say, the price is attractive, but the CK3 is certainly not as robust as the Moto MC9090 and I think this does cause problems over time. The other problems I have with the device is the lack of a WinCE option (it is a real pain trying to get it to work with apps such as the Oracle GUI ones) and the very small buttons.

    I also have sold and installed one RFID enabled version, but I really didn’t like how RFID is implimented and would not recommend this again.

    For me, that EX25 scanner is still the one feature that sets the CK3 apart from similar devices.

  4. With the EX25 scan engine, the user can not scan while moving or walking. They have to be absolutely still and this really hurts productivity. The best scanners I've used for warehouse applications is LXE and Psion Teklogix.

  5. Sagaranov says:

    CK = Computer keypad
    CN = Computer notepad
    CV = Computer vehicle mounted

  6. That makes sense. Thanks!

Trackbacks

  1. […] reviewed the EX25 scanner from Intermec here and I think it matches up very well against Symbol’s Lorax long range scanner – […]

  2. […] That EX25 scanner from Intermec is really good. I wrote about it in my CK3 Review. […]

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